Council members said they want to revive what has become a ‘deflated’ Fourth of July weekend in recent years.
With tradition in mind, Steamboat Springs City Council decided the Fourth of July Parade will stay on Lincoln Avenue next year and that they would like to see the return of a late evening event — a time slot on America’s Birthday that has been vacant since the city stopped launching fireworks.
The decision comes after the city waited until June to make this decision for the most recent Fourth of July and things didn’t go as smoothly as hoped. Traffic was so bad at times that it was taking people 90 minutes to get across town.
But council members have also heard a lot of support for keeping the parade on Lincoln, arguing it is Steamboat’s biggest holiday for locals and is a crucial day for downtown businesses.
“Our town is definitely growing. ... To me, our traditions are even more important to keep, to teach the new people and keep what we have,” said Chris Dillenbeck, who owns F.M. Light & Sons.
“I feel like the city and organizations like the Chamber, who’ve been around for 100 years, really need to be the keepers of our community culture,” said Sarah Leonard, CEO of the Steamboat Springs Chamber. “There were obvious problems with traffic control, people were frustrated… Let’s try it again.”
In 2021 when Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon was closed and U.S. Highway 40 was the detour, the Colorado Department of Transportation required the city to move the parade off of Lincoln. While the Yampa Street rendition of the parade is viewed as a successful event by city staff, business owners downtown say it led to fewer people coming to their stores.
The obvious positive of a Yampa Street parade is reduced traffic impacts, but it is also a smaller area, meaning fewer people can enjoy the parade. CDOT staff have told the city they have no preference. While they would like U.S. 40 to be open, they also want to support community traditions.
“The Fourth of July is the biggest day of the year for F.M. Light & Sons. It way outpaces any other day, even Christmas Eve,” Dillenbeck said. “When it was moved to Yampa, we did see a significant decrease in sales.”
There were positives to take away from the last Fourth of July Parade. While traffic was brought to a halt, the detour route did allow for first responders to have good response times. This has been an issue in the past, but Sgt. Even Nobel said officers were able to get through downtown in just two minutes during the last parade.
While Police Chief Mark Beckett made it clear he preferred moving the parade to Yampa Street, he said there were other factors to consider as well and his department would do whatever they could to make the event go smoothly.
“Is Yampa easier for us to address than Lincoln? Absolutely,” said Police Chief Mark Beckett. “My perspective on that is just one small piece of the pie, you know there’s all these other considerations.”
Council member Bryan Swintek said his gut reaction was to move the parade to Yampa, but ultimately wanted to try it again on Lincoln.
“If we messed up last year, I think we should try Lincoln again, but it cannot be a repeat of last year,” Swintek said. “If we messed up once, I don’t think tossing that tradition out the window at that point doesn’t seem wise. … Town has changed a lot. I think it would be really special if we could keep it on Lincoln.”
The decision made on Tuesday only impacts the 2024 parade, and the question of where to hold the parade will likely come back to Council each year for consideration going forward.
Council also directed staff to put out a call for event proposals to fill the hole left when Fourth of July Fireworks were canceled due to fire concerns. Currently, there are three events with the parade, Jumpin’ and Jammin’, and Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo.
“Our Fourth of July weekend has been just deflated over the last couple of years and it seems to be getting worse,” said Council member Michael Buccino. “We have to solve the traffic problem.”
Representatives with Steamboat Symphony Orchestra have pitched an evening event that would pair music with a drone show put on by the same company Steamboat Resort used for their 60th Anniversary drone show earlier this year. The Rodeo has said they would support a night event at Howelsen Hill and have even offered to end the rodeo early if needed.
While council members did show support for a drone show, they decided to create a community committee to review events that are proposed and decide which one will get to happen in 2024. This committee will include two Council members and several community volunteers.
“This has to be open to people who want to do events,” said Council member Joella West. “It can’t just be a vote for the one event, as interesting as it is.”
Top Photo Caption: Steamboat Springs City Council decided to keep the 2024 Fourth of July Parade on Lincoln Avenue on Tuesday. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)